Moran, trailing his two rivals in polls, went on the offensive with direct attacks on former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe and state Sen. Creigh Deeds in an interview sponsored by ABC 7/WJLA-TV, POLITICO, Google and YouTube.
Playing to his party’s liberal base in vote-rich Northern Virginia, where the interview aired Wednesday night, Moran highlighted his opposition to offshore oil drilling, voiced support for stricter gun laws and reiterated his opposition to the state’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
On guns and gay rights, he took direct aim at Deeds, who polls show has been surging in the final days before the June 9 primary.
Moran noted that, unlike Deeds, he backed one-gun-per-month legislation and voted in the General Assembly against putting the gay-marriage amendment on the ballot three years ago.
And on the environment, Moran pointed out that he was the only candidate in the race to oppose a new coal-fired energy plant in southeastern Virginia and to back a ban on all offshore drilling.
The former Alexandria delegate’s eleventh-hour offensive took place on a prime-time “Battleground Virginia” special in which all three candidates sat for interviews ahead of the contest that will decide who gets to take on the Republican candidate, former state Attorney General Bob McDonnell.
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The trio of Democrats faced questions from Virginians on YouTube as well as from ABC 7 anchor Leon Harris and POLITICO Editor-in-Chief John F. Harris in the ABC 7/WJLA-TV studio.
Deeds and McAuliffe, widely seen as the two front-runners, avoided attacking each other or Moran and stuck to their central campaign arguments.
For Deeds, that means electability and the idea that he can attract the sort of center-right voters essential to win a general election in the Old Dominion.
Having lost the 2005 attorney general race to McDonnell by a slim margin, Deeds said Virginians should give him a second shot.
“I’ve proven I can beat him,” Deeds said, citing a newspaper endorsement that said he was the only candidate who could “put together a coalition of Democrats, independents and Republicans that got Mark Warner elected governor.”
McAuliffe reiterated his business credentials and made the case that he would bring a much-needed outsider’s perspective to the increasingly contentious state Capitol.
“I’ve created jobs. I know what to do. I’ve got a business plan,” McAuliffe said. “I haven’t been part of these partisan battles in Richmond with Bob McDonnell.”
The candidates also laid out their ambitious goals for improving the state’s outdated transportation infrastructure, including costly road construction programs and a high-speed rail link between the Northern Virginia, Richmond and Tidewater regions. But they remained vague about how to pay for the aspects of their plans that would not be heavily subsidized by the federal government.
“As it relates to transportation, we’re going to have to have an honest discussion on how we pay for it,” McAuliffe said. “Nothing should be off the table.”
Both McAuliffe and Deeds said they want to avoid raising taxes if elected, though Deeds acknowledged that he has refused to take a no-tax pledge, saying that it would be “irresponsible” to do so.
Only Moran conceded that, at least when it comes to transportation funding, voters may have to be willing to accept an increase in the sales tax.
“I’m not proposing any tax increases,&rdquo Moran said. “The caveat there — and let’s be honest, this is leadership — we need to invest in transportation and we must do it in a way ... that’s fair and equitable to Virginians.”
All three candidates expressed reservations about the potential transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to facilities on U.S. soil.
“I just don’t think we ought to be bringing in alleged terrorists because, with that, you’re bringing a lot of attention and a lot of people around the world who might want to make a statement,” McAuliffe said. “I just don’t think we ought to have that symbol in the middle of a population center.”
Moran said he wouldn’t budge on the issue, even if President Barack Obama called him personally to ask Virginia to take some of the detainees.
“I’ll wait for him to call me,” Moran said, before announcing his cell phone number on the air. “I must ensure the public safety of all Virginians, and if those trials present a threat to the public safety of any of my fellow Virginians, that is my top priority. And so I would not welcome those trials to occur in Virginia.”
The three faced a YouTube-generated question asking them what one accomplishment they would seek as their legacy after serving four years in Richmond.
“I want to be the governor that brings opportunity and prosperity and hope to every corner of Virginia,” Deeds said. “I can get that done by creating more educational opportunities for people all over Virginia and by developing a transportation system that becomes a model for the rest of the world.”
Moran citied several priorities but settled on the issue of transportation, explaining that so many of the state’s other problems hinged on creating better roads and public transportation options.
McAuliffe kept it simple: “Job creator in chief,” he said. “With jobs, I get to do everything else I want to do. Without jobs, they’re raising your taxes or cutting your budget more, and I don’t want to do that.”
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